The book of life, and my book as practice

morrisons for mountview

I feel a gentle sense of ending a chapter this weekend as I prepare to move to turn a page with the start of the MA in Creative Producing at Mountview.

[The pic above is from the walk to Mountview through Morrisons – the only conservatoire in the world with a direct route through a supermarket. Who said art was glamorous]

This is a moment of change for me which started in Spring 2013 when my mother was rapidly reaching the end of her life, and Anglia Ruskin University powers-that-be decided to end the highly successful MA in Arts Management I was running because they needed the space for bigger grossing courses (or so I presume).

At that time I was distracted by many trips to Cornwall to sort out my mother’s care and, apart from a few most enjoyable international consultancies, I wasn’t quite sure what would happen next.   By October I was dealing with my late mother’s estate and taking a moment to reflect on whether I dared take some time off and not need to work. The plan was to take maybe 6 months. In reality this led to a new set of chapters that have taken me in unexpected directions for 2 years.

In that time I have written a book, Your Life in Theatre,  trained as a creative life support coach, worked with 30+ clients, enriched my CGO Surgery programme with sessions in a number of UK locations, made some welcome new international connections with SEAsia, and worked with Stephen Jameson, William Harris and everyone at Mountview to validate and recruit for a new MA which starts on Monday.

I am reflective because I have just delivered Kath to the airport with her two extraordinary mentors Paul Oertel and Nancy Spanier in order that Paul can deliver their annual Discipline of Freedom courses – this year on the idyllic island of Lismore.

Paul was talking to me last night about the year he has spent since we last met, when I gave him a copy of my book. More for fun than in expectation that he would have time to read it. I am deeply touched to learn last night, that he has had it with him for a year and used it, along with his many other texts and reference points, as part of his daily practice. He has used the book, paragraph by paragraph, to explore his own journey as an artist – first actor training in New York, then dancer, then inspired teacher, and now extraordinary facilitator of creative journeys.   We shared a feeling that now is a new beginning. Extraordinary creative things will happen in the next 3 weeks in Scotland for them, and extraordinary things will happen for me in the rather less idyllic setting of our new MA Hub in the 2nd chocolate factory in Wood Green.

Someone else emailed me a few weeks ago saying they had my book by their bed and referred to it daily as part of their creative practice. I was shocked, and jokingly offered to send him a book token so that he could get another book too. But when Paul said it yesterday I had to accept part of what was said.

The last 2 years has allowed me to focus down on what is necessary for me; what I have learned over 40 years of helping to make theatre; and indeed what is ‘necessary’ theatre to me. The book offers some of that distillation for others to explore.   I didn’t intend to write a book that would be used for personal practice. I do know I’ve written, as I intended, a book with a lightness of touch around many subjects, and ensured it is filled with useful stuff I have learned.

From Monday I start a new chapter. I will use much that is in the book, and so much that I have learned through my coaching training. I am excited to learn from the MA cohort about the UK theatre scene as they encounter it, as well as German and Portugese theatre because that’s where some of them come from. We will look at SEAsia, Australia, US, and take a European overview with some highly experienced guest lecturers.   It’s an exciting time to be 40 years along my theatrical journey – I am most definitely prepared to be surprised.

Turn the page – chapter heading – Wood Green 14th September 2015…

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